Along with the Buzzcocks, THE UNDERTONES pretty much wrote the rule book where Punk-Pop perfection was concerned. Indeed, if you’re over 35, you won’t need me to tell you all about their well-documented run of classic singles, John Peel’s patronage and their seemingly overnight transition from also-rans in their hometown of Derry’s Bogside to starring on ‘Top of The Pops’.
Thankfully, the Undertones legacy has never been in danger of slipping off the radar. All four of the original line-up’s studio albums have remained in print and have been afforded the ‘expanded edition’ treatment in recent years, while several ‘Best of’s have already done the rounds. During the ‘90s, Castle Music put out a decent one, while 2001’s ‘The Story of The Undertones – Teenage Kicks’ (DVD too) is still easy enough to purchase from Amazon and the likes of HMV.
Not to be confused with that last one, we now get ‘Teenage Kicks – The Very Best of The Undertones’, which – predictably – kicks off with the band’s era-defining title track and leans heavily on tracks from their cracking first two LPs, ‘The Undertones’ and ‘Hypnotised’. Absolutely nothing wrong with that, of course. It means all the short, sharp fizz-grenade singles are here from the euphoric rush of ‘Get Over You’ to the zigzagging menace of ‘You’ve Got My Number’ and the evergreen, Subbuteo football-referencing ‘My Perfect Cousin’. All of them are wonderful showcases for the canny brilliance of John O’Neill’s song-writing, Feargal Sharkey’s glorious warble of a voice and the band’s intuitive twin-cam guitar sound.
On this occasion, however, the songs are not presented in a chronological order, so there’s also room for a couple of surprise inclusions. Not least ‘(She’s A) Runaround’ and the lesser-chosen ‘Listening in’ from the debut album and (from ‘Hypnotised’) the lovely ‘The Way Girls Talk’: John O’Neill’s first serious stab at the sort of bittersweet ballad he would later excel at.
As is usually the case with Undertones compilations, though, the track-listing is woefully light where the band’s ‘Positive Touch’ and ‘Sin of Pride’ albums are concerned. ‘Teenage Kicks’ does at least include both the deceptively bright, brass-bound ‘It’s Going to Happen’ and the shimmering beauty of ‘Julie Ocean’, plus punchy cult favourite ‘When Saturday Comes’, but the soul-inspired ‘Sin of Pride’ album is all but ignored, save for the kitchen sink revue of ‘The Love Parade’. Once again, I can only gnash my teeth over the fact there’s no room at the inn for the likes of ‘Love Before Romance’, ‘Soul Seven’ and the strident ‘Sin of Pride’ itself.
There again, you’ll only care about these gripes if you’ve already got the band’s studio albums and a decent ‘Best of’ compendium already. ‘Teenage Kicks – The Very Best of The Undertones’ is largely a necessary introduction either for anyone who loves the singles, but never invested in a ‘Greatest Hits’ package or else is too young to understand what it means to be weaned on countless evenings with your ears glued to John Peel and David Jensen on Radio One. If you’re in either of those categories you’re in for an absolute treat. If you’re not, you’ll still adore bassist Mickey Bradley’s liner notes and fall in love all over again regardless.
Salvo Music online
The Undertones online